CH. 3


The private security business had been good the previous year, enough to where I could run it from Ravensgate. I put Lester, one of my managers, in charge while I was away. It would help me put adequate energy into an attempted investigation of Sandy’s disappearance. Occasional out-of-town trips might occur but wouldn’t be a problem.

About a week after signing the contract, I brought some of my belongings in the house. The first thing I did was change all the locks. I added an alarm system and put cameras on the front and back door. It wasn’t hard to be completely moved in by August.

The calendar that hung on the refrigerator was from last year. I looked through it for any information Sandy might have left. There was nothing through all twelve months – not even an appointment or days marked off. I took it and tossed it in the trash. I’d get an updated one later.

The old-style Victorian wasn’t what I was used to, but I wanted things in the house to be as close as possible to how they were when Sandy lived there. It was surprisingly easy to get comfortable in the large, brooding house. I began to feel at home even though there was a slight air of unease to the place.

The first night, after moving in boxes of my things, I tried relaxing in the living room and watching TV. The eerie, quiet house somehow made me nervous but also put me at ease.

As I sat on the low back couch, which was covered in a light layer of dust, I heard noises. There was a sound coming from within the walls. Some type of movement. Bumping and thumping. Rats. There had to be rats scurrying in the walls.

I spied the white bust of the woman on the fireplace mantel. Nice touch. I noticed a similar bust on an end table in the dining room sometime earlier.

I got up from the couch to get a better feel for my new home. I wanted to see Sandy’s art studio in the cellar. I opened the basement door, next to the kitchen in the hall, and walked down the wooden steps into the basement. Spider webs hung from underneath them and in corners near the ceiling.

Metal shelving stood against the brick wall on the left. Pieces of pottery painted in various colors sat on each shelf along with small statues of the human figure, male and female. Unfinished white busts like the ones upstairs were there too. Probably some of the pieces she had practiced on. Sandy’s accurate attention to anatomy was uncanny.

When I was a kid, I used to visit and watch her sculpt from clay and marble. She let me play with the clay. I would make animals but could never produce anything like her.

The rest of the basement contained nothing more than old junk stored in plastic totes stacked atop one another. There was a wooden door on the far wall toward the front of the house. I opened it, revealing a smaller room with a large wooden table in the center. More shelves lined the wall opposite the door, on which sat sculpted female heads, plastic bags of moist clay, and small utensils, some of them very sharp. In the corner to the left was a circular kiln in which clay was baked. Obviously, Sandy’s art studio.

I shut the door, then took the trip from the basement up two flights of stairs to the second floor. In the center of the master bedroom where Sandy slept was her large bed, its sheets neatly done, probably the work of the groundskeeper.

I opened the closet door. On hangers hung a few women’s blouses, and on the floor were a few pairs of shoes, left behind by the police I guessed. I felt I was invading Sandy’s privacy, but I looked in the dresser drawers anyway: all empty. I sat for a moment on the comfortable king-sized bed but would not sleep there. It was still Sandy’s room. I would use the guest room.

The study to the left of the master bedroom would be the perfect home office. The large oak desk and leather chair were still there. The drawers contained pens, sticky notes and other office supplies. Nothing of any significance.

I perused the books on the shelves. Much of it was about art and history. I found it odd that many were about the paranormal and occult. From what I knew, Sandy was never interested in that stuff.

The second-floor bathroom was tidy and bigger than the one downstairs. The guest bedroom with its twin bed against the far wall was neat. There was a closet to the right of the doorway, a small night table next to the bed, and dresser and chair by the window. I’d move my clothes in later.

I needed a good look at the attic, so I jerked open the attic door from the hall and flipped the switch at the bottom of the stairs. The light turned on. Sandy had eventually changed the bulb. I followed the narrow wooden steps up and saw a large silver Maglite Flashlight standing on its head next to the railing at the top. Sandy probably left it there after changing the bulb.

The attic was cluttered just like Sandy said. It was one huge loft-like room filled with old furniture covered with white sheets. One by one, I lifted them off, revealing old items like an empty dresser, a rocking chair, and a vintage waist-high radio with a wooden frame. More plastic totes containing Christmas and Halloween decorations were stacked on one another in a section of the attic.

The only window in the entire room was circular with a cross frame in its center, sectioning off four planes of glass. It was on the front wall, which gave a view of the front yard, the driveway, and Arkham Road. To the left of the circular window in the far corner sat a large wooden trunk. I went to it and bent down to open it, but it was locked shut with a padlock. Did the police even bother with this? Something to look into.

To the right of the window, on the wall adjacent to it, was a closed door. I opened it. The fairly large closet was empty except for a naked, armless upper torso of a female mannequin that sat on the floor. She had pink plastic skin, her bald head was turned to the left, and she stared into space.

The temperature dropped and the dusty attic suddenly became cold; a draft maybe. I shut the closet door, leaving the mannequin shrouded in darkness, then headed downstairs to turn in early for the night. I turned off the attic light when I reached the bottom of the steps and shut the attic door.

An hour later I lay in the guest room bed, unable to sleep, staring at the ceiling in the dark. The house was foreign and still took some getting used to. Sleep finally took over me, but I was awakened by a sound. A heavy creak came from the ceiling above, like the one I heard when Sandy showed me the house. Another creak followed the first. Someone was walking in the attic.

I sprang from the bed and grabbed my sidearm, which I kept in the dresser drawer. I ran into the hall, pulled open the attic door, and turned on the light switch before running up. As I stood at the top of the stairs facing the large attic, everything seemed fine, but only for a second.

“Who’s up here?” I said.

The light bulb that hung from the ceiling flared, then went out, leaving everything in darkness. Perfect timing. Light from the moon rushed through the circular window, illuminating a small portion of the attic, but it was still hard to see.

I paused, waiting for movement of any kind. Nothing.

I quickly grabbed the Maglite near the railing next to the steps, turned it on and shined the beam around the room. Slowly, I treaded through the old furniture and junk. Anybody could have been hiding in all that clutter. My eyes slowly adjusted. A raccoon, she said.

I checked in all directions with the light in one hand and my Beretta 92A1 in the other. When I glanced at the round window, I saw it: the shadowy profile of a woman walking silently past the window from left to right, blocking out the moonlight. She had a thin frame and short hair. The floor creaked as she walked.

The silhouette disappeared into darkness as it stepped beyond the window toward the closet that contained the mannequin torso. I aimed the flashlight in her direction and she was gone.

“Sandy?” I called.

I ran to the spot where I saw the woman in front of the window and shined the light around. No one was there, nothing but the window and the closet. Nervously, I walked to the closet door, reached for the knob, and opened it. I saw nothing but pitch black. The flashlight helped a little. I could see the mannequin torso on the floor through the strong circular beam of light.

A soft wind came from the darkness of the closet and blew my hair across my forehead. A disembodied whisper called, “Cole.” My heart beat faster. It was a woman. I couldn’t tell if the voice came from the closet or somewhere else in the attic. I turned quickly, flashing the light everywhere, and saw nothing but sheet-covered furniture.

When I turned back to face the closet, it emerged from the dark; a hand reaching out for me from inside. The flesh was gray, peeling, and rotted. The nails were black, and its fingers stretched outward. I stood transfixed, frozen as the appendage came forward.

A loud banging rang out from downstairs, snapping me out of the trance, and the hand was gone. Again, I saw only darkness. I was sure I’d imagined the whole thing and shut the closet door. The pounding continued. Still a little uneasy, I realized someone was downstairs knocking at the front door. The doorbell didn’t work.

I found my way through the dark attic. I looked at my watch as I headed downstairs: nine-thirty. A late visitor.

Gaining my composure, I put the firearm in the back of my pants and opened the front door. There stood a heavy man, tall, middle-aged, wearing a full red beard and mustache and a gray blazer.

“Can I help you?” I asked.

“Hello. I’m Karl Lansley… I tried the doorbell, but it doesn’t work. I apologize for my late arrival, but can I speak with Sandy?”

“How do you know Sandy?” I asked.

“She requested my services. Sorry it’s late, but Sandy said I could come by no matter the hour. I’ve been trying to get back with her for quite some time. Her cell seems to be turned off, and she doesn’t answer her emails.”

“Sandy’s not here,” I said calmly. “She hasn’t been for some time.”

“Oh, I wasn’t aware. Did she move?”

“Not quite. Who are you? What kind of services?”

“I’m sorry, here’s my card.”

He reached into the inner pocket of his jacket and handed me a white business card.

“I’m from the Center for Paranormal Investigations,” Karl said. “Sandra and I were to schedule another meeting, but like I said, I wasn’t able to contact her by phone and got a little worried. I stopped by tonight since I’m back in town.”

“Paranormal investigations? How did you meet her?” I asked.

“She found us online. She wanted us to have a look at the house.”

“I see. What did she say about the house?”

“She thought there was some activity here. Well, when you talk to her, tell her I came by.”

“Sure. Thanks for stopping by, Karl.”

“I appreciate it. Again, sorry for the inconvenience.”

I shut the door and walked into the living room. Through the window I watched the man walk down the walkway to his Chevy Impala parked in the driveway behind my Jeep. He drove off, then I noticed a strange light high up in the night sky. It was stationary and changed colors back and forth from red to white to green and then blue. To get a better view, I went back to the front door, opened it, and stood on the porch.

The object was still there and began to descend slightly, then stopped above the clouds. It hovered, continuing to glow while changing colors. Abruptly, it moved diagonally to the upper right with great speed and then stopped. It moved again quickly to the left and again stopped like a laser pointer on a wall. The object turned blue, red, then flew straight up with lightning speed and disappeared.

What the hell? Planes couldn’t do that. I shut the door, sat down on the sofa and set my gun on the coffee table. I looked at Mr. Lansley’s card. The Center for Paranormal Investigations. UFOs? Ghosts? Maybe Sandy was onto something.